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Tag: conditions

Half of Kentucky’s county animal shelters called substandard — and nobody’s watching

Trixie Foundation dogsleashes1

One day after basking in the nationwide attention the Kentucky Derby brings, Kentuckians woke up to the reality of how another species of animal is being treated by the state.

The Lexington Herald-Leader presented a package of stories addressing the often poor conditions in the state’s rarely monitored animal shelters.

In a state most famous for racing horses — and doing so in manner that almost appears civilized, what with the all the elegant outfits, mint juleps and whimsical hats — many dogs are living far less regal lives, stuck in county-run shelters that, under state law, receive almost no scrutiny from state agencies.

Unlike most states, Kentucky’s animal-shelter law does not include any inspection or enforcement provisions, which means any actions taken against them such shelters must from citizens.

Not until 2004 did state laws even get written to lay down minimum standards for county-run shelters. Those new measures required each county to have access to a shelter and animal-control officer, and set out standards that include protection from the weather; basic veterinary care or humane euthanasia for ill or injured animals; adequate heat in winter; clean and dry pens with adequate room for animal comfort; construction with materials that can be properly cleaned and disinfected; available clean water; uncontaminated food provided daily; and public access to the facility.

Those laws didn’t outline how, or specify who, was responsible for enforcing those standards.

A measure in the 2017 legislative session called for a study of ways to better fund animal shelters and cited the need for a “government entity” to enforce the state’s shelter rules, but it died without consideration.

That lack of enforcement is a large part of the reason the Animal Legal Defense Fund has ranked the state last in animal protection laws for 11 years in a row.

A study by the University of Kentucky, done in 2016, found that of 92 shelters covering Kentucky’s 120 counties – some of them regional facilities – conditions at 57 percent violated three or more provisions of Kentucky’s animal-shelter laws.

More than a fourth were considered “very substandard,” and only 12 percent were meeting all the rules the legislature put in place in 2004.

“Current laws do not appear to be fully satisfactory at accomplishing the goal of providing good shelter animal care across Kentucky,” said the study.

skaggsWhile county-run shelters operate with relative immunity, independent nonprofit sanctuaries and shelters get no such free ride, as was the case last week when the state Department of Agriculture seized 14 dogs from a no-kill sanctuary called Eden.

Randy J. Skaggs, who operates the sanctuary in Elliot County through his Trixie Foundation, faces 179 misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty in connection with poor health and living conditions.

Skaggs defenders say he has devoted his life to caring for animals because so many public shelters in the region were substandard.

Skaggs says he is housing animals no one else wants, and that shelters would end up euthanizing. He refuses to let anyone adopt dogs because believes their best chance to live a healthy and happy life is at his sanctuary.

Skaggs believes the criminal charges against him are retaliation over his efforts to bring attention to Kentucky’s failure to adopt adequate animal protection laws, his criticisms of county shelters and his efforts to push for improvements.

(Photos: Will Wright / Lexington Herald-Leader)

Former racing greyhounds to find adoptive homes after Texas blood bank shuts down

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That Texas operation that held retired racing greyhounds in captivity to regularly harvest and sell their blood is shutting down.

PETA exposed neglectful conditions at the blood farm this fall and has been campaigning hard for its closure — going so far as to put up billboards, engage in protests and even buy a share of stock in the company it sold blood to.

The Pet Blood Bank, located northwest of Austin, is one of several commercial blood banks in the United States with an in-house “colony” of dogs used to supply blood for veterinary treatments, according to the Washington Post blog Animalia.

An attorney for the blood bank said in a statement Thursday that the closing was a “business decision” made because the PETA campaign had “caused our long-standing customer relationships to be terminated.”

The National Greyhound Association and other dog-racing advocacy organizations said they were working with regional greyhound adoption groups and the Pet Blood Bank to place all of the 150 greyhounds now housed there up for adoption.

“We’re confident that every greyhound at the blood bank will be on its way to a loving new home within the next few days,” said Jim Gartland, the association’s executive director.”

Last month, PETA obtained photos and videos from a former company employee showing dogs confined in squalid quarters and, in some cases, left to suffer from painful injuries and dental disease.

The blood bank’s owner, Shane Altizer, denied the allegations.

PETA aimed its campaign primarily at Patterson Veterinary, the Minnesota-based company that the blood bank was a provider for. It held protests at the company headquarters and the home of the CEO of its parent group. It bought billboards, and one share of stock in Patterson Companies “to put pressure on the billion-dollar enterprise.”

Operations like the Pet Blood Bank sell their products to veterinary clinics or supply companies, and greyhounds — because members of the breed often have a universal blood type — are commonly used as donors.

The banks are not regulated by the federal government, and California is the only state that regulates them.

In a statement on Thursday, President Ingrid Newkirk said PETA would “work hard to get regulations passed to ensure all blood for emergency transfusions comes from real donors and not from imprisoned, miserable dogs.”

(Photo: PETA)

Getting every last drop from greyhounds

As if racing their hearts out weren’t enough, some greyhounds are retired to dog blood banks where they live caged all day long, except for outings to get their blood drawn.

PETA last month exposed one such kennel, The Pet Blood Bank, Inc., in Cherokee, Texas, which houses about 150 retired greyhounds — solely for the purpose of extracting and selling their blood and blood products.

The products, PETA reported, are distributed by Patterson Veterinary Supply, Inc., which did about $3 billion worth of business in 2016.

After the the PETA expose and a story in The Washington Post, Patterson Veterinary Supply announced it would take steps to correct the horrible conditions they described.

bloodbankBut PETA says no steps have been taken, even after they had Paul McCartney send a plea to the company.

Patterson Veterinary Supply initially announced it would terminate business with the The Pet Blood Bank, Inc.

It also promised to support “efforts to ensure that the animals receive appropriate care.” Bu PETA says it has seen no evidence of any such efforts.

The whistle-blower was Bill Larsen, 60, a former employee of the blood bank who went back to work there and was horrified by how conditions had deteriorated.

Larsen, who took the incriminating photos, said he unsuccessfully sought help from local animal shelters and a state agency before contacting PETA. “I just like dogs,” he said, and “hate for any animal to get treated like that.”

The photos show kenneled dogs with open wounds, rotting teeth and toenails curling into their paw pads.

The blood bank was founded in 2004 by Austin entrepreneur Mark Ziller, who said he initially sought volunteers and used a bloodmobile. When that did not turn up enough dogs, the company began using retired greyhounds housed in a kennel on a private farm northwest of Austin, the Post reported.

Ziller said he sold the company in November 2015 to Shane Altizer, whose family owns the farm in Cherokee.

“The Pet Blood Bank had a noble mission: It provided blood for veterinarians to use in lifesaving transfusions,” Ziller tod the Post. After viewing the photos PETA obtained, he added, “To see the animals in that state is beyond depressing.”

Altizer did not deny that the images were taken there, but said they predated his 2015 purchase of the company or were “moment snapshots” unrepresentative of overall conditions now.

Blood banks help save thousands of animals a year, but they are also profit-driven and unregulated.

With more medical procedures being used by vets, transfusions are more often required, and animal blood banks struggle to meet the demand. Only one state, California, regulates such operations and requires annual inspections.

bloodbank2Greyhounds are considered especially desirable as donors because they typically have a universal blood type and have big neck veins that make drawing blood easy.

Veterinarian Anne Hale, former CEO of the nation’s first and largest commercial animal blood bank, said she visited the Pet Blood Bank this summer and was “pleasantly surprised” with conditions there. After viewing the PETA photos and video though, she said, “It appears that the facility was ‘cleaned up’ before our touring … I agree that this facility should be addressed. This certainly suggests that regional, state and/or federal regulation is warranted.”

Former Beatle McCartney, who wrote a letter on PETA’s behalf, wants to see all the dogs removed from the facility.

“I have had dogs since I was a boy and loved them all dearly, including Martha who was my companion for about 15 years and about whom I wrote the song ‘Martha, My Dear,'” McCartney wrote. “I join my friends at PETA in asking you to pay these greyhounds back, and to let them retire from the dirt-floored, barren conditions in which they are kept isolated and alone.”

(Photos and video from PETA)

Program works with Amish in southern Indiana to improve breeding conditions

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While Amish breeders are notorious for running puppy mills, some of those in southern Indiana are working with Purdue University’s Center for Animal Welfare Science to improve their breeding practices and, in the process, their reputations.

“It was time that we as breeders recognize that there are professionals out there that can help us and we need to involve them in our businesses,” said Levi Graber, a member of Odon’s Amish community who helps several breeders in the area.

Though the Amish aren’t known for reaching out, or letting people in, Graber contacted the university a few years ago about improving Amish-run breeding operations in the region. That led to a pilot program in which the operations are reviewed, and suggestions are made on how to improve them.

Already, those behind the program say, they’ve found that improving conditions and practices at the kennels leads to happier, healthier, better behaved dogs.

Under the program, which is open to non-Amish breeders as well, a set of voluntary standards will be created for breeders to follow, according to the Lafayette Journal & Courier.

“Many folks hear about breeding and animal welfare and they don’t know what (breeders) actually do. They just want to put them out of business,” said Purdue’s Candace Croney, director of the animal welfare center.

Most dogs she and her team of researchers have observed have been in good physical health, Croney said, but some had room for improvement in their behavior. Some facilities’ dogs were loud and dogs became over-excited when they saw people, which Croney said indicated they weren’t used to seeing people often.

The research team advised those breeders to make sure something positive happens for the dogs, such as receiving a treat, every time someone comes into the kennel area. They also suggested letting the dogs out in the yard daily to exercise and socialize.

The changes made a big impact, Croney said. Over four months, the dogs in the kennel with the most behavioral issues became calmer when they saw people, and they physically looked better.

“We’ve seen a very positive impact on some of the things she recommends,” Graber said. “I’ve seen more contented, happy dogs.”

Once the trial program is complete, a third party will audit the breeders’ practices, Croney said.

Breeders who qualify will receive a certification that she said goes beyond the standards mandated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which cover areas such as housing, sanitation, food, water and protection against extreme weather and temperatures.

Graber said the community feels fortunate to work with Purdue and emphasized that the breeders don’t want to sell puppies that disappoint anyone.

Not all Amish-run breeding operations are like those that end up on the news, noted Dale Blier, who works for Blue Ribbon Vet & Supply in Odon and sells supplies to many breeders in town.

“The majority of dog breeders in Indiana treat their dogs the same way they treat making furniture: They want to be the best at it they can,” he said.

(Photo: A child sits with puppies at a breeding operation in Odon that’s working with Purdue’s Center for Animal Welfare Science program; by Levi Graber)

Puppy mill law, with boost from First Lady, passes N.C. House, heads to Senate

 A law requiring dog breeders to provide fresh food and water, daily exercise, veterinary care and sanitary shelter was passed by the North Carolina House Thursday, with help from the governor’s wife.

Ann McCrory, who normally leaves the politics to her husband, released a statement Wednesday supporting House Bill 930.

“… Passing legislation to establish basic standards of care for large commercial dog breeding facilities is a very important issue to me, and to people across our state,” she wrote.

” … I hope you and other members of the General Assembly will continue to advocate for this bill, and other legislation establishing higher standards for commercial breeders. These policies increase our quality of life in North Carolina and ensure better care for dogs across the state…”

The bill sets basic standards of care for operations that use more than 10 females for breeding.

Many say it is a watered-down version of previous attempts to pass a puppy mill law, but add that the compromise is better than nothing in a state some breeding operations have been relocating to in an attempt to avoid regulation.

“North Carolina is the only state in the Southeast without puppy mill laws,” explained Caleb Scott, President of North Carolina Voters for Animal Welfare told Fox 8 News. “We are a puppy mill destination in North Carolina because we have no laws on the books. Puppy millers gravitate to our state.”

The minimum standards required by the bill, as it has been amended, would notapply to breeders of hunting dogs, sporting dogs, field dogs, or show dogs.

It now heads to the Senate.

WRAL described Ann McCrory’s letter as her “first foray into public advocacy” since her husband took office.

The McCrory’s have a Labrador Retriever named Mo.

(Photo: Erin Hull / The Daily Tar Heel)

NBC report questions AKC inspections

The American Kennel Club is doing a much better job of protecting bad breeders than it is protecting dogs.

That’s the gist of this investigative report that aired yesterday on NBC’s  “Today” show

The accusations aren’t exactly new, and weren’t exactly uncovered by NBC, but it’s good to see the issue getting some national attention.

The AKC, investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen notes, calls itself “the dog’s champion …

“But critics say there’s an ugly reality you don’t see: Some AKC breeders raising diseased dogs, malnourished, living in their own filth. It’s so disturbing that now two of the country’s largest animal welfare groups, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society, are condemning the AKC.”

The report included an interview with one dog owner, who purchased a Great Dane from a kennel  only weeks after that kennel was inspected by the AKC and found in compliance. The puppy turned out to have intestinal parasites, an upper respiratory infection and a congenital eye defect.

“Law enforcement went into the kennel just two months later, and rescued dozens of dogs,” Rossen reported.

Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, is featured heavily in the report, and makes the point that the AKC should be working with animal welfare groups to protect dogs instead of protecting bad breeders and fighting laws that would crack down on them.

AKC Director of Communications Lisa Peterson, also interviewed for the report, says she would give the AKC an “A” for its inspection program.

But when the reporter asked how many breeders are producing AKC-registered dogs, she said, “That’s a great question. We don’t know.” And when asked what percentage of AKC registered breeders end up getting inspected, she wouldn’t offer a ball park figure.

“We do thousands of inspections annually,” Peterson said. “We’ve done 55,000 inspections since the year 2000.”

“But what percentage of breeders actually get inspected?”

“… I don’t have that figure,” Peterson said. “I’m sorry.”

Peterson said there are nine AKC inspectors in the U.S. Asked “Do you think that’s an adequate number?” she said, “That’s the number that we have.”

PETA vs. BARCS

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has accused Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter (BARCS) of being overcrowded (which no one is going to argue with), unhealthy (which is debatable) and of allowing an injured cat to sit for hours before it was euthanized (which the shelter adamantly denies).

The criticisms are based on a complaint from a citizen and a follow-up investigation by Teresa Chagrin, a sepcialist with PETA’s cruelty investigations department, which included a visit to the facility.

Chagrin said a resident of Hamilton named Joe Lombardo witnessed the cat get attacked by a dog and called animal control. The cat was neither treated nor put down for seven hours after arriving at BARCS, he said. The cat arrived at BARCS Aug. 8, according to the Baltimore Sun.  When Lombardo called BARCS the next day, he says he was told that the severely injured cat was not put down until 8:30 the next morning.

BARCS officials said Tuesday that the cat was immediately evaluated and then euthanized.

“That’s completely wrong,” Debbie Rahl, the shelter’s rescue coordinator, said of the complaint. “There was no delay.”

Chagrin apparently had investigated BARCS before the cat incident. In July, she wrote a letter to the city’s health department, criticizing conditions she had either witnessed or been told about.

“Visitors to the city facility report that several rooms lined with cages from floor to ceiling contain cats housed in high temperatures while small box fans, apparently meant to cool the rooms, simply blow hot air around the floors,” Chagrin wrote. “I visited the facility on June 13, 2010, and verified the complaints. During my visit, many cats showed signs of overheating — the majority of cats were lying on their sides with their eyes closed and were breathing very rapidly. They had no interest in visitors and appeared extremely lethargic.”

Chagrin said Wednesday she’d received no response from the city.

Jennifer Brause, BARCS executive director, called the complaints unfounded and said the cat was evaluated and then put down, a process that took several hours. Brause said the staff and volunteers have increased the number of animals whose lives have been saved at the shelter by 60% over the last few years.